My friends of Halos Heaven, the year 2013 is finally coming to a close with Thanksgiving less than two weeks away and Christmas shortly to follow which means countless traditional family festivities, stuffing yourself full of turkey and potatoes, making New Year's resolutions that'll never actually happen, and of course, refreshing MLBTraderumors.com every 30 seconds. This winter will be full of plenty of trade speculation surrounding Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick, and Peter Bourjos it's just a matter of who will actually get traded for this teams biggest need, pitching.
However, this fanpost isn't about pitching acquisitions or free agent signings to make the Angels a contending team next year. This fanpost is directed at what the Angels already have to work with and a growing a concern that has been eating at my subconscious for the better part of a week now: the Angels lead-off spot in the batting order.
If you ask me the Angels already have the best and ideal lead-off hitter in all of baseball in Mike Trout. Unfortunately, I think Trout's days as a lead-off hitter, and even a second spot hitter, are likely over. So begins Trout's Angels career as the middle-of-the-order hitter whose sole purpose will be to hit, get on base, drive runs in, and hit bombs (yes, ZOMG DINGERRZ!) While that's all fine and dandy it creates another hole in the lineup elsewhere, hence the title of the fanpost. Now I'm going to explain who I would like to see hit lead-off and possibly hit second but first let me elaborate on why I'm a little scared about the lead-off spot and it begins with the Big Catorce. Now Scioscia has, as many of you already know, made questionable lineup moves throughout the years, but let's focus on some recent ones. The focus will mostly be on Aybar and Shuck.
Last year the Angels had several different guys hit in the lead-off spot. JB Shuck, Erick Aybar, Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos, Kole Calhoun received some time there, and even Chris Iannetta received a plate appearance there (drew a walk, shocker). Here are all of their stats per Baseballreference.com:
- JB Shuck: 64 games started accumulating 297 plate appearances in the lead-off spot while posting a .285/.312/.347 slash line and a .658 OPS
- Erick Aybar: 46 games started accumulating 206 plate appearances while posting a .272/.287/.369 slash line and a .656 OPS
- Peter Bourjos: 20 games started accumulating 91 plate appearances while posting a .299/.368/.403 slash line and a .770 OPS
- Mike Trout: 18 games started accumulating 88 plate appearances while posting a .325/.398/.519 slash line and a .917 OPS
- Kole Calhoun: 6 games started accumulating 29 plate appearances while posting a .407/.448/.889 slash line and a 1.337 OPS (not to mention hitting 4 of his 8 homeruns in the lead-off spot) of course I have to mention, in a limited amount of playing time.
Certainly not bad numbers by any mean, but the on-base percentage numbers are worrying. Calhoun and Bourjos' numbers look good but it's too small a sample size to try and measure. So let's not focus on Aybar or Shuck even though we all know they'll get some at-bats in the spot, let's look at the other alternatives: Calhoun and Bourjos.
For the record, this is assuming Bourjos and Calhoun are not traded which I don't think either of them will. Bourjos' trade value isn't exactly high even though we all know what he's capable of when he is on the field. Calhoun is cheap, cost-controlled, and has a lot of upside so I don't see the Angels trading him either. In my scenario, the Angels trade only Trumbo for pitching, sign Eric Chavez, and hold onto everyone else giving them a lineup , in my projection, of:
1. Kole Calhoun RF/1B/DH
2. Peter Bourjos CF
3. Mike Trout LF/CF
4. Albert Pujols 1B/DH
5. Josh Hamilton LF/RF/DH
6. Howie Kendrick 2B
7. Eric Chavez 3B against righties
8. Chris Iannetta/Hank Conger C
9. Erick Aybar SS/Grant Green or Luis Jimenez against lefties 3B
Kole Calhoun should be the lead-off hitter in my opinion. While I feel like some of you want Calhoun hitting second potentially or even lower in the lineup, he brings better plate discipline than Bourjos, isn't a slouch when it comes to running, has some homerun and extra base pop which I like in the lead-off spot, and would get on base more than Bourjos. I think Calhoun has a very good shot of posting a slash line much like he did last season (.282/.347/.462) perhaps even better, but I want the better OBP of the two in the lead-off position.
Looking at the free agent market over the next two years, there's not a lot of options. Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin Soo Choo are the big names this year, but they both have questions and would require a lot of money and a draft pick. Next year is even worse with Brett Gardner looking like the only viable option, he'll be 31 by the way, so it's not looking good on that front either. The best option is to optimize what the Angels have now in certain matchups in the lead-off and second spot. Some sort of rotation of Calhoun, Bourjos, Shuck, and maybe Iannetta looks like our best bet, yeesh, it'll be interesting to see what the lead-off spot looks like without Trout these next couple years, but the Angels might want to consider looking for a new one after sorting out their pitching problems.